Jess Tolbert

Jess received an MFA from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a BFA from Texas State University, San Marcos, both with a focus in Jewelry and Metalsmithing and honors. They are currently an Assistant Professor of Art and Head of the Jewelry + Metals program at University of Texas, El Paso. Jess’ work is recognized nationally and internationally and has been invited/selected to exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, Brooklyn Metal Works, Beijing Design Week, Houston Center for Contemporary Crafts, and New York City Jewelry Week to name a few. Jess has participated in multiple artist residency programs and has been selected for numerous prestigious awards including the Preziosa Young 2020 award based in Florence, Italy, and as a Finalist for the Loewe Craft Prize 2020. They are a co-founder of the curatorial group Secret Identity Projects, and their work is represented by Gallery Loupe (Montclair, NJ, USA) and Gallery 2052 (Chicago, IL, USA).

Tolbert_J_Agujetas.jpg

Agujetas (Ceci)

Date of Creation: June 15, 2022

List of Materials: Agujetas (shoelaces) purchased in CDMX, brass grommets, thread, printed photograph of shoelace cart where laces were purchased

Dimensions: 28 inches long, pendant: 3.375 x 2 inches, print: 13 x 32 inches

Photographer's Name: Rubén Garay

Conceptual Statement: Jess Tolbert's practice reconsiders manufactured, everyday products and materials as wearable and intimate objects. This duality considers how the industrially-made and the handcrafted challenge our nostalgic, imagined, and actual relationship with labor, the built/maintained environment, and identity. Utilizing and inspired by the seemingly commonplace, Jess bridges the gap between disparate modes of making in order to consider the role material, process, and people play in the production of things and spaces.

Tolbert-Undue-Burden-2.jpg

Undue Burden

Date of Creation: 01/09/2021

List of Materials: 8 steel coat hangers, nickel tie tacs

Dimensions: 5 x 7.5 x 5.5 inches

Photographer's Name: Jess Tolbert

Model's Name: Cynthia Gutierrez-Krapp

Conceptual Statement: On September 1, 2021, Senate Bill 8 became law in Texas, banning access to abortion after six weeks, empowering citizens to sue providers and anyone facilitating the procedure, and clearly moving in the opposite direction of progress for womxn’s rights. A womxn should always have the right to choose what is best for their body, and ‘Undue Burden’ is a harsh reminder of what happens when the right to choose is compromised. Eight metal coat hangers are joined together to form a cempasúchil, or marigold, a flower traditionally seen adorning Dia de los Muertos altars. A flower with deep meaning and purpose in the celebration, its scent used to attract souls back to the altar, it also carries darker emotions of grief, despair, and mourning. The form and material of this brooch are brought together in mourning. Mourning for all womxn’s safe, legal, and equal access to abortion, mourning for our right to choose, and mourning for a time when it doesn’t take death for equality to set in.

Tolbert_J_Greater-Than.jpg

Greater-Than

Date of Creation: 01/01/2020

List of Materials: Fused steel staples

Dimensions: 22" length

Photographer's Name: Jeanette Nevarez

Model's Name: Brioch Ochoa

Conceptual Statement: Jess Tolbert's practice reconsiders manufactured, everyday products and materials as wearable and intimate objects. This duality considers how the industrially-made and the handcrafted challenge our nostalgic, imagined, and actual relationship with labor, the built/maintained environment, and identity. Utilizing and inspired by the seemingly commonplace, Jess bridges the gap between disparate modes of making in order to consider the role material, process, and people play in the production of things and spaces. A humble staple is often overlooked, its purpose does not often extend beyond what it was intended for. Jess is drawn to its recognizable form and to the rhythm of its use. Repetitive actions of making replicate the pace of mass production, but not its protocols. With infinite possibilities, Jess reflects upon the unknown makers and their process to create a product that is now a raw material, capturing labor in the form of jewelry.

Scroll to Top